Is Online Divorce Safe and Legal in California?
No and yes. Online divorce in California is legal but unsafe – unless you take just one simple precaution. I’m going to tell you exactly what that precaution is, but I need to take you through some explanations first. You should understand why I recommend that precaution and how it will make online divorce both safe AND legal in California.
Is Online Divorce Legal in California?
First, let me explain what I mean by the statement that online divorce is legal. You cannot log into some website and get a divorce BECAUSE you logged into that website. You also cannot log into some website and BUY a divorce. In other words, no one can sell or guarantee you a divorce. That’s true of a $300 unlicensed online divorce mill in India and it’s also true of a $10,000 California divorce lawyer.
You can only get a legal divorce in California by filing a properly-prepared batch of specific documents at your local Superior Court, serving them on your spouse together with a larger batch of more complex property/debt/income disclosure docs, waiting 31 days (in most cases) and then filing another very large batch of properly-prepared very complex specific docs at your local Superior Court to apply for judgment. Then 2 to 16 weeks later (depending on the county you reside in), a judge of the Superior Court will either approve and sign your judgment or reject it for reasons stated. If your judgment gets rejected, you correct whatever the judge wants to be corrected and then do the last step over again. You keep doing the last step until the judge approves and signs your judgment. Your divorce becomes final either 6 months plus one day from the date your spouse was served or on the date the judge approves and signs your judgment, whichever is later. That is the ONLY way to get a divorce in California.
However, to make the procedure of getting an uncontested divorce in California more convenient and less expensive, using online divorce to get your uncontested divorce is almost a no-brainer. Online divorce will reduce costs and increase the accuracy of the data in your case. It also empowers you in your own case because you will be the person who is entering the huge amounts of data required in a California divorce. You enter that date into a safe and secure online divorce interview from the comfort of your home or office and you do so at your own pace. You can complete the online interview in one session or several sessions over a number of days. All of your data will be encrypted and securely saved for when you log back in next.
You should NOT use online divorce to get your divorce if you know that your case is going to be contested (you and your spouse are fighting over some issue). You should also not use online divorce if you have a complex case (domestic violence, tax problems, special-needs child, living trust, active business being divided between the spouses, etc. – this is not a complete list of complex cases). And finally, you should not use online divorce if you have a very large marital estate. If you’ve got a LOT of assets (definitely more than a $10M gross fair market value marital estate and probably over a $5M marital estate), it’s just a real good idea to have full traditional legal representation from a local California licensed divorce lawyer – just because of the extent of the assets at stake.
For all other types of cases, online divorce is smart, cost-effective and completely legal in California.
Why Should You Consider Online Divorce At All?
If you have made the difficult personal decision to divorce and you are fortunate enough to have an uncontested case in which you and your spouse/partner are in agreement on all issues, then online divorce is definitely the best way to proceed. If your case fits that description, you don’t need to overspend on a $7500 to $10,000 divorce lawyer.
However, at the other end of the money scale, it is almost impossible to go it alone anymore and get a free divorce or free divorce papers in a California divorce. Back in the ’80s, you could get divorced with kids using maybe 15 Judicial Council legal docs on 35-40 sheets of paper. Today, that same case would take approximately 35 much more complex Judicial Council docs on 200-220 sheets of paper. If you do not have kids, the paperwork load is a little less.
California divorce has become incredibly complex this last 30 years. According to a recent Insider Monkey study, California now has the second most difficult divorce procedure in the whole country. Only Vermont is harder. Long gone are the days when you could buy a divorce forms packet from your local Superior Court, rev up your old Remington typewriter and use a $20 book to figure out how to do your own divorce.
And if you think that the state of California publishes handy guides on how to get a divorce, forget it. The state of California does in fact publish handy guides, but in order to be “handy,” they have to be short and incomplete. If the state published a complete handbook on how to get a divorce, it would be 400 pages long and no one would read it. The guidelines provided by the state are helpful and accurate, as far as they go, but unless you are already a lawyer, you will not be able to use them to get a divorce on you own for free.
If you don’t believe me on this, I can only wish you good luck in your case. Remember that if you go it alone and screw up your case, it will cost more, likely through a lawyer, to correct the problems. Going it alone in a California divorce is false economy.
So you should consider online divorce because it is a far better method than the other 2 alternatives: a full representation lawyer or DIY. Don’t overspend on a full California divorce lawyer representation and don’t fall into the DIY trap.
Is Online Divorce Safe in California?
“No” is the answer. Why isn’t online divorce safe? Because the approximate 2 dozen online divorce mills that control the online divorce industry are substantially fraudulent and incompetent. Not all of them are that way, but most of the bigger/more popular ones are fraudulent and incompetent.
The standard of quality of work provided by MOST online divorce mills is extremely low. These companies are unlicensed and unregulated. They employ untrained, low-quality, high turnover staff that will be practicing their new jobs on your divorce.
Divorce consumers don’t often write publicly about problems in their divorce cases, but when a professional writer hires one of the worst online divorce mills and things go wrong, as they usually do, well, you can read her story.
Fraud is probably a more common problem than incompetence, but with fraud, they just steal your money. With incompetence, they can screw your legal and economic interests for years. If you pay $300 to an unlicensed online divorce mill and you end up paying for their mistakes for years to come, that’s NOT a cheap divorce in California.
This Table Highlights the Four Biggest Online Divorce Mills in the California Market and Their Major Problems
|completecase.com||$299||Price Fraud – This fee is for the first 30 days only. See video below.|
|getdivorcepapers.com||$129||1. Price Fraud – This fee is for the first 30 days only. See video below.|
2. Based in India
3. Incompetent – 105 complaints and F rating at BBB
|onlinedivorce.com||$129||1. Price Fraud – This fee is for the first 30 days only. See video below.|
2. Labeled as misleading advertisers by BBB.
3. Incompetent – 37 complaints and F rating at BBB
|mydivorcepapers.com||$139||1. Price Fraud – This fee is for the first 30 days only. See video below.|
2. Incompetent – 80 complaints and F rating by BBB.
Also Check This Video About Widespread Price Fraud in Online Divorce - All Four of the Outfits in the Table Above are in This Video
So What To Do To Make Online Divorce Safe and Legal in California
Here’s the part where I promised to tell you the one simple precaution to take that will make online divorce safe in California.
Why would you risk your legal and economic future by hiring an unqualified, unaccountable, out-of-state online divorce mill when local licensed online divorce lawyers are offering all of the benefits of online divorce, plus legal advice, plus a legal rights checkup plus a legal insurance policy, plus an unbundled doc-review service (so that you only use a lawyer where you need one) at a competitive price? Online Divorce Lawyer is truly the Best of Both Worlds – online divorce done by a local licensed lawyer who knows the laws of California and the local rules of court and practices of your local Superior Court.
Most divorce lawyers in California are NOT online divorce lawyers and never will be. They only want to charge you $7500+ for full legal representation – even in an uncontested case. Most divorce consumers do not know about unbundled services and most lawyers won’t tell you about them. But most lawyers don’t know that online divorce is available to them. Because we want lawyers who sign up for our Online Divorce Lawyer service to do well, we are limiting the number of Online Divorce Lawyers to one per major city.
Keep in mind that each Online Divorce Lawyer is an independently owned and operated law firm. So each picks its fee and the services offered. However, most Online Divorce Lawyers are offering unbundled online divorce/doc-review services in the range of $700-1500. This is an incredibly good value compared to the average online divorce mill price of $300-1000 for a service that is not complete and is full of fraud and mistakes.
You will also have the “insurance policy” of having completely scale-able legal services available from a local lawyer who knows your case – should the case blow up or should some other legal services be required later in the case. You will already have a local lawyer on your team who is knowledgeable about the facts of your case. Those additional services will be at an additional fee, but you will know the trigger and the fee in advance. Keep in mind that additional services and fees are not needed in most cases. With an online divorce mill, they are not even available. You would have to start from square one with an unknown local lawyer who doesn’t know your case. Why not start with a local Online Divorce Lawyer who will be with you the whole case.
So you are not going to find Online Divorce Lawyers hanging around street corners. The best way to find a local California divorce lawyer who has wised up to the advantages of offering an online divorce service in uncontested cases is to follow one of these 2 options: